Street Food: Latin America


Emory Pittman, Print Editor

The Spanish IV class would like to share a review and description of the Netflix show, Street Food: Latin America in celebration of Hispanic culture. We hope you read and enjoy learning about other beautiful cultures!


Mexico: Culture/History (by Meghan Routhier)

Most of Oaxaca’s street food comes from various indigenous recipes that have been passed down through families. Lots of the dishes use corn as the main ingredient because that was what was readily available for the ancestors. Lots of the cooks featured in this episode continue to use the recipe that was handed down to them by their parents in order to keep the traditional flavors alive.

Mexico: Food (by Lilly Boone)

A notable food of Mexico is Tlayudas, a traditional dish in Oaxacan culture.  Tlayudas are large, thin tortillas that are partially fried to crunch then topped with refried beans, avocado, lettuce or cabbage, asiento (unrefined pork lard), Oaxaca cheese, salsa, and a meat of your choice.  The recipe of Tlayuda is not strict and allows many individuals to experiment with different toppings and combinations.  A Tlayuda typically fills an entire dinner plate, but it can be served open-faced or folded.  A popular restaurant to order Tlayudas is Tlayudas la Chinita, owned by Doña Brígida Manzano, in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Mexico: People (by Nedaa Soufan)

In this episode of Street Food: Latin America, famous chef Doña Vale shares her story of how she came to sell her specialty- memelas. Vale moved to the city of Oaxaca after a tragic fire claimed her family’s home. When she first arrived, she struggled to work in the city but because of her mother’s influence, she decided to start selling memelas at the Central de Abastos market. The other vendors showed their distaste for Vale by putting trash in front of her stall. She began to doubt herself and think she couldn’t be successful but one day, she utilized the chilis that were being dropped in front of her stall. Vale wanted to make her memelas stand out from others so she used them to make a smokey salsa. It was a huge hit and many people came from around the world, other chefs included. Vale ended up being put in a cookbook and is still selling memelas today. 


Peru: Culture/History (by Porter Petruzziello)

As seen by the country’s cuisine, there is a significant Japanese influence on the culture of Peru. The combination of Peruvian and Japanese food is called Nikkei. In Nikkei, the ingredients are from Peru, but the preparation is Japanese style. One example is treating raw fish with lemon to cook it, a Japanese manner of cooking. Peru’s Japanese influence began in 1899 when the first Japanese migrants arrived. These migrants quickly integrated into their communities and became an integral part of Peru, from politics to businesses to culture. While known for Nikkei, their influence is far from limited to food. 

Peru: Food (by Virginia Grey Newton)

One of the most memorable foods of Peru is Ceviche, a seafood dish that was influenced by Japanese cuisine but is considered Peru’s national dish. The dish can be prepared with fish, shrimp, or conch. The fish, or other seafood, begins raw and is cured by lime juice. Along with citrus juice, chopped onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and other seasonings are used to make the dish. Ceviche is usually eaten as an appetizer with chips. The use of citrus juice to cook the seafood is influenced by the Japanese style of cooking. One great place to get Ceviche in Peru is Al Toke Pez, owned by Toshi Matsufuji. 

Peru: People (by Lisa Renee Dudley)

In the final episode of Street Food: Latin America that our Spanish class watched took place in Lima, Peru, where we met the first of three chefs: Toshi Matsufuji, owner of Al Toke Pez. Toshi is a third-generation Japanese man that fell in love with cooking just like his father did before him. After his father passed away, he took over his old restaurant to create his own, serving comida (food) inspired by Japanese and Latin American cuisine. Following Toshi’s story, viewers are introduced to two more personas (people) that run their own separate stands located in parks and streets in the city. First, we are introduced to Pablo Valverde, an hombre (man) that has been selling picarones mary, squash donuts drizzled in sugarcane syrup, for 25 years in a park in Lima. The second is a mujer (woman) named Dona Pochita that sells anticuchos, skewered beef hearts. All of the people featured in this episode are truly dedicated to what they do: sharing parts of their lives, culture, and ethnicity in the food that they serve to the people of Lima.


Argentina: Culture/History (by Elizabeth Winstead)

Argentina is a country with a mixed culture drawing influence from all over the world. Along with the traditional Native and Spanish cultures most commonly found in South American countries, Argentina is greatly influenced by Italian culture. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, approximately 2 million Italians immigrated to Argentina bringing their language and culture with them. Today, descendants of these immigrants make up almost half of the population and their culture has been intertwined into everyday Argentine life. Many words and phrases used in Argentina have been adopted from Italian. Argentine accents, particularly in Buenos Aires, even resemble Italian accents. The mixing of cultures can be found even further in Buenos Aires by the pizza shops located on almost every street serving typical Italian dishes.

Argentina: Food (by Emory Pittman)

There are many delicious foods mentioned in this episode of Street Food: Latin America. First, at the restaurant Las Chicas de las Tres, we saw a tortilla de papas, essentially a potato, ham, and cheese omelette that was enormous. It was very popular among the patrons of the small restaurant located inside a larger market in Buenos Aires. Also at Las Chicas de las Tres, we saw a tortilla de verdura, a vegetarian option of the same dish with just cheese and vegetables. Next, the show highlighted fugazzeta, my personal favorite. Fugazzeta is an Argentine stuffed pizza. Inspired by Italian cuisine, the restaurant La Mezzetta makes many an outstanding meal. Finally, and more traditionally, this episode mentioned the classic empanadas and choripan. Everyone knows what an empanada is: fried dough filled with deliciousness (maize, in this case). Choripan is another Argentine dish, a sandwich made with chorizo, or sausage.

Argentina: People (by Mason Kolesar)

In Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, there are many different restaurant owners. The featured chef in the first episode was Pato Rodriguez, who, along with her girlfriend Romi, runs a permanent restaurant called Chicas de las Tres, which is located in Buenos Aires’ central market. Pato first developed her desire to learn to cook from her family’s small shop; Pato would spend much of her time watching her father cook and pretended to prepare food with him. Despite most women not being encouraged to work as chefs, Pato continued to learn to cook, even after a disastrous attempt at a family barbeque. Once her family’s shop started struggling, Pato dropped out of college to start Chicas de las Tres, which specializes in papas tortillas, a baked dish of cheese and potatoes. Aside from Pato and Romi, Buenos Aires is home to a diverse group of people, many of whom have their own small restaurants and shops.